Tris added to California Prop 65 carcinogen list

According to environmental groups that monitor their meetings, the State of California’s Carcinogen Identification Committee voted last week to add Tris, Tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate or TDCPP, to the list of “chemicals known to the State of California to cause  cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm”, commonly known as the Proposition 65 list.

TDCPP is very widely used as a fire retardant in polyurethane foam in car seats and upholstered furniture. The chemical is detected in indoor air and dust, in surface waters, and in human milk and adipose tissue.

The designation of TDCPP to the Prop 65 list is likely to mean that the State of California will require hazard labeling of all products that contain the substance.  Although Prop 65 applies only in California, decisions of the California Carcinogen Identification Committee often have an impact on toxic substance considerations across the continent.

GallonDaily notes that some fire retardant experts are reported to have stated that TDCPP provides little or no benefit when used as a fire retardant in polyurethane foam products.

A summary of the case against TDCPP, prepared by an official of the
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment of the State of California, is at  http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65/public_meetings/CIC101211/TDCPP_JFLMA101211.pdf

A press release from one of the environmental groups that have been working on the Tris issue is at http://www.toxicfreefiresafety.com/Tris.Prop65.10.11.11.php

Feeding 9 billion people

According to an article from the highly respected Stockholm Environment Institute and an international team of experts, published in Nature, feeding a global population of 9 billion is achievable.

The article states that we can double, and potentially increase by nearly three times, global food supply by following four key strategies:

  • halting agricultural expansion,
  • closing ‘yield gaps’ on underperforming lands,
  • increasing cropping efficiency,
  • shifting diets and reducing waste.

In developing improved land use and agricultural practices, the paper recommends following these guidelines:

(1) Solutions should focus on critical biophysical and economic ‘leverage points’ in agricultural systems, where major improvements in food production or environmental performance may be achieved with the least effort and cost.

(2) New practices must also increase the resilience of the food system. High-efficiency, industrialized agriculture has many benefits, but it is vulnerable to disasters, including climatic disturbances, new diseases and economic calamities.

(3) Agricultural activities have many costs and benefits, but methods of evaluating the trade-offs are still poorly developed. We need better data and decision support tools to improve management decisions, productivity and environmental stewardship.

(4) The search for agricultural solutions should remain technology-neutral. There are multiple paths to improving the production, food security and environmental performance of agriculture, and we should not be locked into a single approach a priori, whether it be conventional agriculture, genetic modification or organic farming.

This is a reasonably detailed and level-headed look at the sustainable food production systems needed to feed the world’s growing population. GallonDaily commends it to all interested in food system planning.

The article can be found at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10452.html  A fee or subscription is required to move beyond the abstract.

A good synopsis of the article, including comments from McGill University professor Navin Ramankutty, a senior member of the study team, is at http://www.seeddaily.com/reports/Feeding_the_world_while_protecting_the_planet_999.html

Our food /windmills/radiation/air pollution/insert what you will/ are killing us

There is an author, a cardiologist no less, who is doing the rounds of media telling all who will listen that one item in our food is killing us. GallonDaily will not mention his name or the title of his book because we don’t want you to buy it.

GallonDaily is fed up with supposed scientific experts using their credentials to spread nonsense and sell books or technology. It does not matter whether they are selling fear, as is our cardiologist, or unjustified safety, as the head of a pro-incineration industry group did when he recently told Canadians that “burning garbage in your backyard releases more dioxins in the air than an EFW plant would in a year”. This industry executive clearly does not know what he is talking about and he is, incidentally, bringing scientific discredit to the industry he represents.

Issues of environmental public health are so bad in Canada that, according to Statistics Canada, an agency that GallonDaily still regards as reasonably credible, life expectancy for Canadian men has increased from 59 years in 1920 to 68 in 1960 to 79 in 2006. Life expectancy increases are similar for women. Sure, we still have some very important environmental public health issues, including climate change and air pollution, but there is not much evidence that the food we eat or the air we breath are causing widespread premature death.

It is not too long ago that a CEO selected as an advisor to the federal government made it known that his company’s technology would reduce Canada’s GHG emissions by enough to cause this country to meet its Kyoto commitments. The fact is that if a promise sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Equally, if a risk sounds too bad to be true, that is probably the case as well!

Green infrastructure to help water resources

An enormous database of green infrastructure projects that successfully and sustainably manage stormwater resources has been established by the American Society for Landscape Architects at the request of US Environmental Protection Agency.  The database of 465 projects in 43 states and Canada can be found at http://www.asla.org/ContentDetail.aspx?id=31301

The database includes projects in many sectors including industrial, commercial, multifamily and single family residential, institutional, open space and parks, mixed use, education, parks, and transportation corridors. Most of the projects have elements that could be reproduced anywhere in North America but it is pleasing to note that seven of the projects are located in Canada.

Stormwater and protection of ground and surface water resources are issues of rapidly increasing importance. GallonDaily commends this database to planners and engineers involved with projects that involve management of stormwater runoff.

Pharmaceutical contamination “reaching alarming levels”

An letter in the current issue of the journal Nature states that “Environmental contamination by pharmaceuticals is reaching alarming levels “. Professor Michael Depledge of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter, in the UK, recommends that “new partnerships between drug companies, the public-health sector and those who deliver environmental sustainability are urgently needed to tackle the issue”. According to Depledge, the UK government’s Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances will be conducting an investigation.

The full letter is available at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v478/n7367/full/478036a.html#/comments
A subscription or one time payment is required. A CV for Professor Depledge is at http://www.pcmd.ac.uk/profiles.php?id=mdepledge&tab=full

Chevrolet’s Carbon Reduction Initiative

Chevrolet has announced a carbon reduction initiative with some interesting features.

First is the size and scope of the initiative: $40 million dollars with a target to reduce CO2 emissions by eight million tonnes by 2030. That’s big, compared to many other companies’ GHG emission reduction initiatives.

Second is the approach: the investment will be in greenhouse gas-reducing projects, like wind farms and solar and energy efficiency, in communities across the US (no word yet on Canada). This will be in addition to energy efficiency improvements at Chevrolet plants. The Company claims that, since 1990, its manufacturing and assembly plants have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 60%. It also claims that almost 50% of GM plants — many of which build Chevrolet vehicles — are landfill-free.

Third is the source of the money: Chevrolet states that it will not be increasing the price of its vehicles to pay for this program. Instead it is planning to spend $40 million less on consumer advertising.

Fourth: Chevrolet states that all of its Carbon Reduction Initiative projects will be third-party verified. That is a big step forward compared to claims made by many other companies.

Although the Carbon Reduction Initiative was announced last year, it is only recently that it is being featured, with project details, on the Chevrolet website at http://www.chevrolet.com/green-environment/carbon-reduction/. GallonDaily particularly recommends clicking on the Q & A tab where quite a few of the program details are explained. Chevrolet’s initiative is one that GallonDaily commends as a possible model for other large companies considering voluntary CO2 reduction initiatives.

Cleantech: “China may clean the clock of the US”

Nat Goldhaber is Managing Director of Claremont Creek Ventures, a California-based venture capital firm investing in early stage information technology companies.  A few weeks ago AOL identified CCV as one of the leaders in investment in energy efficiency which AOL labelled as “the workhorse of cleantech”. CCV has about $300 million under management.

So it is more than of small interest to GallonDaily when Mr. Goldhaber talks about the competition in clean technology between the US and China. Goldhaber says ” the U.S. isn’t doing enough. China is much more aggressive than the United States in developing clean technology projects and could dominate clean technology development globally for many years to come.”

The good news, again according to Goldhaber, is that “the race for clean technology supremacy is not over. The United States is very entrepreneurial and has a fierce desire to create new and better technology, including clean technology. In addition, the United States actually benefits from low-cost Chinese solar panels, which allows it to more easily accomplish alternative energy goals.”

Nat Goldhaber is just one voice but GallonDaily is inclined to think he is on the right track. Give his views a more detailed look at http://claremontcreek.com/view.cfm/7/News and, if you are in the Cleantech financing field, as a venture capitalist or as a start-up company, take a look around the Claremont Creek site. There’s much that should be of interest to Canadian cleantech start ups.

And the Green Energy winner is . . . the state of Vermont

Still in draft for consultation but there is no doubt about the direction – the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan looks set to be a leader for the entire continent with a target of 90% of all energy from renewable sources by 2050!

The comprehensive plan is indeed comprehensive, covering all energy sources and pretty well all uses:

  • conservation first, with a target of 3% reduction in electricity use each year
  • small scale distributed generation
  • an auction for FIT for medium sized electricity generators
  • a public process for siting of renewable generation
  • priority on reliability of supply
  • expansion of natural gas use
  • incentives for projects that advance biomass use, maximize fuel-use efficiency, and displace fossil fuel
  • reduce petroleum consumption and accelerate the switch to cleaner fuels, and PEVs, with more stable pricing and predictable supply
  • reshape the transportation system with better, more efficient programs and infrastructure, while also encouraging land use practices that reduce energy use at the same time that they enhance communities

This is no political summary document but a remarkably detailed plan in three volumes with 420 pages in total supported by data and implementation strategies. As such, it may well provide a model for other jurisdictions in North America.

Way to go, Vermont!

The draft plan is available at http://www.vtenergyplan.vermont.gov/

Electric car: 250km range on a single charge

Most observers agree: the biggest challenge for electric cars is the limited range, with even the Nissan Leaf, the most mainstream of the fully electric vehicles currently (almost) available in Canada having a maximum range of 160km per charge. As usual, we regret to state, the Europeans are ahead of us. The Pininfarina BLUECAR is a fully electric production four door four seat subcompact sedan that claims a range of 250km per charge, enough for a family of four or fewer to take a trip to visit out-of-town family or from Toronto to see the fall colours in Muskoka. The BLUECAR has a claimed top speed of 130km/hr and offers decent acceleration for a family car of 0 to 60km/hr in 6.3 seconds.

The lithium polymer battery pack for the BLUECAR is reportedly manufactured by Bathium Canada Inc. at a purpose-built plant near Montreal but that does not give Canadians easy access to the vehicle. In Europe the BLUECAR is available on lease for around  ε330 per month but there is currently no distribution in North America. BLUECARs are soon to be available through the car sharing program Autolib in Paris.

Specs and other information about BLUECAR are available in French at http://www.bluecar.fr/en/pages-accueil/default.aspx

Information about Bathium Canada is at http://www.bathium.com/

Information about Autolib car sharing and the BLUECAR is at http://www.autolib-paris.fr/spip.php?article101